Saturday, 16 June 2018

SNRG in Norway

Many of you know the origins of the ringing group, but for those that do not please refer to the FAQ pages. Those of us whose group membership goes back to 1971 have kept in touch with the group's founder Humphrey Dobinson over the years by letters and emails. However, the last time anyone from the group visited him was when Gary and I dropped in to see him at his house in Swindon in the early 1980s, on our way to Slimbridge to make some swan darvics. Since then Humphrey and his wife Oddrun retired and went to live in Oddrun’s native Norway. Their two children Colin and Kristin had also moved there to work.

I bumped into ex-member Nigel Bosworth just before last Christmas and he suggested we should pay a visit with any other original members that we could contact and were able to make the trip. After consulting with Colin Dobinson we secretly set up a visit to see Oddrun and Humphrey and flew out on Friday 18 May. Four of us made the trip, Gary, Mick T, Nigel and myself.

In 1966 on 7 September, Humphrey took delivery of a new Bedford mini-bus (the Beddy), Humphrey would take us all over the country in this bird-watching and ringing. He spent countless out of school hours, supported all the way by Oddrun, passing on his ornithological knowledge to van-loads of eager pupils. If we called in at his house in Keyworth to do some garden ringing, Oddrun would often supply waffles for us to eat. Sadly such dedication in this way would not be possible to repeat these days as current laws would not allow it. Pupils now miss out as there are no doubt still teachers today that would be prepared to dedicate so much time in this way if they could. The Beddy became a symbol of the Fairham Ornithological Society and the ringing group, much of the ringing we did in those early days would not have been possible without it. It was sad to see the Beddy head south to Swindon with Humphrey and Oddrun in the early 1970s when Humphrey took up a new position at a school there. Humphrey started an ornithological society at his new school and trained some pupils to become ringers but deliberately kept it on a smaller scale than he did at Fairham School.

As time took its toll on the Beddy it was left in a garage in Swindon and stayed there rusting and the interior being damaged by mice for a long time. But a few years ago Colin had it restored to its former glory and now it too has a new home in Norway. According to Colin it cost a ridiculous amount of money to restore but over the years it had played such an important part in the Dobinson family lives that he just had to do it. A magnificent job he has done as well, we saw photos of the ‘before’ condition and have witnessed the ‘after’. Certain alterations had to be made to make it legal for use on 21st century Norwegian roads, such as removing some of the bench seats to allow the installation of a row of ‘proper’ seats with belts behind the front seats and new Norwegian number plates. (Incidentally the new plate is 66.09.07, not just a random number - see the start of paragraph 3!) As we expected Colin had also saved the old UK plates JNN 902D. The Beddy took us all on a trip down memory lane, literally as we went out for a spin. Not least was the memory of how uncomfortable those bench seats were, it made us wonder how we managed to travel so far on them all those years ago. As one of only 3 of its kind in Norway we saw heads turn as we passed, I commented that we were probably turning more heads with the Beddy than we would if we were passing in a shiny new Ferrari! We just felt there was one thing missing but that was soon rectified as Colin accepted a SNRG car sticker which is now displayed in one the rear door windows.

It was a fantastic trip enabling us to catch up with Oddrun and Humphrey and to see Colin and Kristin who were only children the last time we met. It was great to meet Colin's wife, Trude, and their children Hannah and Fredrik at their house for the great BBQ . We were made so very welcome by them all and would like to thank them for their wonderful hospitality. We must also thank them for arranging the fantastic weather, in the four days we were there we hardly saw a cloud in the sky and the temperature was in the 20s every day.


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Attenborough Sand Martins, Tuesday 12 June

A later start to mist-netting the Sand Martins at Attenborough after a delayed start to egg laying, but this morning Phil, Mick T and I had a good first session. Few birds are nesting in Face A again but Face B and C had plenty of birds and we caught 52 including 19 retraps and 2 controls. The oldest retrap was a pullus from 2016. We also caught 7 ringed juvs that had fledged from this colony and 2 unringed juvs obviously fledged from a different colony.


Treecreeper nest

I was contacted recently by ex-member Nigel Bosworth about a Treecreeper nest he had found in an unusual location on Barton Island in the River Trent at Attenborough. The nest was positioned between a temporary wall and a support post, part of the toilet block for the Sea Scouts who use the island as a camp. Normally the ringing of Treecreeper pulli is restricted due to possible nest damage being caused when trying to remove the chicks. I wondered about the possibility of ringing these chicks as access was easy. Having checked the manual and not finding the answer I consulted HQ, after a while having had no feedback against ringing them I went out in a boat with Nigel and ringed the 6 pulli - the first pulli Treecreepers the group have ever ringed. Below is some video footage of the nest taken by Nigel, to whom we owe our thanks!


Attenborough CES, Visit 4 - Sunday 10 June

The fourth CES visit of the season was carried out on Sunday by Sue, Mick T, Gary and me. The weather was perfect, a bright start but soon after cloud covered the sun and there was not a breath of wind. In a normal year with conditions like this we should have been on for a good catch. We did get the best catch for this years CES season but it only beat visit 2 by a single bird.

Total catch was 26 including 7 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 1/0, Robin 3/2, Dunnock 0/2, Chiffchaff 1/0, Blackcap 1/1, Garden Warbler 1/0, Blue Tit 2/0, Great Tit 5/1, Wren 1/0, Bullfinch 4/1.

The oldest retrap was a Robin from 2016. So closing in on the middle of June and only 3 of today's catch were juveniles: 2 Robins and a Great Tit. The low numbers continue here and around the country. Of note this week was a Wren (the first of the year!) and a Garden Warbler, the first on a CES visit since 2015.

As the photos show there were plenty of invertebrates about to make up for the lack of birds, we also had a brown hawker in the net (successfully extracted) and a hornet which bit through a net strand and extracted itself (thankfully!).


photos by S. Lakeman

Monday, 11 June 2018


I ringed two Buzzard chicks on 7 June 2018 near Bestwood. You can see from the remains that they eat rats too!

Mick P

Monday, 4 June 2018

Ramsdale Park Golf Centre, Sunday 3 June

We held the first ringing session of the year at Ramsdale this morning. The weather was good with no wind and clear skies. The team consisted of Maria, Fiona, Sue, Tom, Gary, Duncan, Mick T and myself. We were hoping for a better catch than the last 3 CES visits we have made to Attenborough which had reflected reports of low numbers from around the country (the total catch in the first 3 visits to Attenborough was 63 compared to 115 for the same 3 visits last year).

The catch rate at Ramsdale was pretty much on a par with Attenborough, very slow throughout the morning. This first visit of the year was the worst numbers total of the last 3 years at this site. We ended with a total catch of (new/retrap) 22/4 made up of: Blackbird 1/1, Song Thrush 1/0, Dunnock 2/1, Wren 1/0, Robin 1/0, Garden Warbler 2/0, Whitethroat 2/0, Lesser Whitethroat 1/0, Chiffchaff 3/2, Willow Warbler 3/0, Blue Tit 1/0, Linnet 4/0. The oldest retrap was a Blackbird from our first visit to the site in July 2015.

Other than a visit made in December 2015 this is the only visit we have not caught a Blackcap here, although we did have our first Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler of the year. Numbers of resident species were low, with no Bullfinch this time at a site which is usually very good for this species. A few juvs were caught but only 19% of the total catch - it was 37% of the total last year. A Cuckoo was around first thing but managed to evade the nets!


 A Lesser Whitethroat (age code 5 - i.e. born in the previous year) that had replaced the two outermost tail feathers on the left

 (both pics S. Lakeman)


A pleasant surprise when checking Barn Owl boxes recently was this beauty. Apparently, they can breed away from water and are often found in Tawny boxes; almost being a nuisance! Can't find any guidance, but presume this is an adult female.


Monday, 28 May 2018

Attenborough CES, Visit 3 - Sunday 27 May

The third CES visit of the season was carried out on Sunday by Alex, Tom, Maria, Jake, Mick T, Gary, and I. No rain was forecast for Sunday morning but it did rain just before we met at the site. Fortunately it stopped and we got all the nets up quickly - but then it went down hill fast, there were very few birds around. I have not confirmed with a check of past data but I think this will probably rate as one of, if not the worst, CES catch we have ever had. Total catch was only 15 including 7 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 0/2, Dunnock 0/1, Blackcap 2/1, Reed Warbler 1/0, Cetti’s Warbler 0/1, Blue Tit 2/0, Great Tit 1/0, Treecreeper 0/1, Bullfinch 1/0, Chaffinch 1/0, Jay 1/0, Reed Bunting 0/1. The oldest retrap was a Blackbird from 2016. Low warbler numbers are being reported around the country but we also seem to have lost many residents over the winter. Last year by visit 3 we had caught 7 Wrens, none so far this year, 8 Robins (including juvs on the first visit), 2 this year and no juvs!


Thursday, 17 May 2018

Century's up!

Just over a year after gaining my permit to trap birds in my garden using conventional traps I have managed to reach the 100 mark. Bird 100 was a rather handsome male House Sparrow caught in my potter trap.

The birds have all been caught in a mixture of spring, chardonneret, potter and walk-in traps and it has been an interesting learning experience researching, making and using these. I would highly recommend Hans Bub’s Bird Trapping and Bird Banding: a handbook for trapping methods all over the world, the BTO’s Trapping Methods for Ringers by Peter G. Davis and articles found in the Ringers' Bulletin for anyone interested in making and using their own traps.

The totals caught to date are as follows:

Wood Pigeon - 2
Blackbird - 12
House Sparrow - 5
Robin - 2
Starling – 79

So far there have been no recoveries, but I can hope! It has been a great experience and given me a very different perspective on common garden birds and I now look forward to learning even more as I head towards my full C-Permit.


Bird #100: a male House Sparrow (A. Phillips)

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Attenborough CES, Visit 2 - Sunday 13 May

The second CES visit of the season was carried out by Sue, Fiona, Ellen, Alex, Duncan, Mick T, Gary, and I. The site vegetation was saturated after heavy overnight rain but the day started, and continued, with mainly clear skies and little to no wind. Unfortunately the catch was again slow throughout but this time we could not blame it on the heat. Where are all the birds - particularly the warblers? Total catch was only two better than last week at 25, including 10 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Great Spotted Woodpecker 0/1, Blackbird 3/3, Song Thrush 2/0, Dunnock 1/2, Robin 1/0, Blackcap 2/0, Blue Tit 2/0, Great Tit 2/0, Treecreeper 1/2, Bullfinch 0/2, Jay 1/0. The oldest retrap was a Blackbird from 2010 that we had not caught in the intervening years.


 Jay being processed (S. Lakeman)

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Attenborough CES, Visit 1 - Sunday 6 May

The first CES visit of the season was carried out on Sunday by Sue, Fiona, Alex, Duncan, Mick T, Gary, and I. Not a cloud in the sky all morning and no wind either so the temperature started to rise quickly.

The catch was slow throughout no doubt affected by the hot conditions. Total catch was only half of the first visit last year at 23 (including 7 retraps) made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 5/1, Dunnock 1/2, Robin 0/1, Blackcap 3/1, Chiffchaff 1/0, Reed Warbler 0/1, Blue Tit 3/0, Great Tit 1/0, Treecreeper 0/1, Reed Bunting 2/0. A slow start, let’s hope it gets better on the future visits. The oldest retrap was a Blackcap from 2015, caught in the same net but not caught in the intervening years.

This year we were able to replace all of our rather tired CES nets, following a grant from East Midlands Airport. As a volunteer organisation, we would not have been able to buy new nets without considerable expense to the members. We would like to thank East Midlands Airport for their generous help.


Sunday, 22 April 2018

Holme Pierrepont, Saturday 21 April

It had our second visit of the season to the Grange end of Holme Pierrepont this morning. Another good weather morning, calm and overcast until mid-morning when the sun came out. Tom, Gary, Mick T and I along with Fiona, who came along for a ringing taster session, set two more nets than last week. High water levels still restricted operations a little. The site seemed quieter than last week but Gary and Tom heard a Reed Warbler early on and I thought I heard a Cuckoo in the distance as we were setting nets (one was reported on NBW as well).

Catching was slow throughout the morning and we finished with a total of 25 including 10 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 0/1, Song Thrush 1/0, Dunnock 1/0, Wren 0/2, Blackcap 4/0, Chiffchaff 0/1, Willow Warbler 0/1, Blue Tit 2/0, Great Tit 1/0, Bullfinch 3/2, Reed Bunting 3/3.

The oldest retrap was a Reed Bunting from 2014, the two retrap warblers were both from 2016. So more nets this week, less birds and a dramatic drop in warbler numbers, 26 last week only 6 this week and none of those were retraps from a week ago, looks like they have moved on.


Friday, 20 April 2018

Herons & Cormorants - a new season and a new approach

Our visits to the nesting colony of Grey Herons and Cormorants at Attenborough Nature Reserve have been a little delayed this year as we have been working out how to adapt to changes in the Trust's Health and Safety procedures. On 18 April we had our first attempt at working solely from ladders rather than climbing with ropes.

We found 9 active and 5 probably active Grey Heron nests. The active nests contained eggs or really young chicks, too small to ring so we will return in a couple of weeks. The footage below shows the most advanced nest that we found, the oldest/largest chick being approximately 10-12 days old. It also shows the size variation of the chicks due to the asynchronous hatching of the eggs.

Whilst we can't be certain, we think that these are all replacement broods due to first breeding attempts failing, perhaps in that really cold snap several weeks ago.

We also checked the Cormorant colony and ringed and colour-ringed 5 chicks from 2 nests.

Happily the new procedures had an encouraging start but more visits are needed to be completely sure.

Mick P